Basis for Advice that Children Should Use Face Coverings in Classrooms - Part 1

The request was refused by Department for Education.

Dear Department for Education,

Basis for Request

The DfE’s ‘advice’ that secondary school children should wear face coverings in classrooms was controversial in the absence of compelling evidence. Though the advice to secondary school children to wear face coverings in classrooms (the ‘measure’) was described as an experiment/trial being conducted for a limited period (between 8 March and the end of the Spring term) it was extended into the Summer term.

My Previous Information Request

On 28 April 2021, you wrote to refuse to provide information requested under my FOI submitted on 28 March 2021 (your ref reference number 2021-0020433 - https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/b...) under Section 12 of the Act. I am now requesting a subset of the information sought under my previous request and trust this will not need to be refused under Section 12 or for any other cause.
INFORMATION SOUGHT

Please provide any briefing documents provided to, or communications with, ministers supporting the decision to advise the use of face coverings in classrooms from 8 March 2021

Yours faithfully,

CHP Gillow

MINISTERS, Department for Education

1 Attachment

Thank you for contacting the Department for Education. If you are
contacting us about coronavirus (COVID-19) you can find advice and
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Paul Lewis left an annotation ()

This will be interesting.

What's the odds that they fail to provide an answer.

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Dear  Chp Gillow 

Thank you for your recent enquiry which was received on 04/05/2021.

A reply will be sent to you as soon as possible. For information; the
departmental standard for correspondence received is that responses should
be sent within 20 working days as you are requesting information under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000. Your correspondence has been allocated
reference number 2021-0025512.

Department for Education

Ministerial and Public Communications Division

Tel: 0370 000 2288

Web: [1]https://www.education.gov.uk
Twitter: [2]https://www.twitter.com/educationgovuk
Facebook: [3]https://www.facebook.com/educationgovuk

 

 

 

 

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CHP Gillow left an annotation ()

The text below is extracted form an email sent to me this morning. I note the reference to "Government has stated that this decision has taken into consideration the latest scientific evidence, medical advice and stakeholder feedback on the impacts of wearing face coverings in schools and colleges". My FOI request remains valid and I look forward to receiving the requested information on the evidence on which the Government based its decision to impose masks with effect from 8 March 2021.

CHP Gillow

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You recently signed the petition “Do not make it mandatory to wear a mask in the classroom”:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions...

The Government has announced that, from 17 May, face coverings will no longer have to be worn in classrooms or communal areas by pupils.

Read the full announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/face-...

In its announcement, the Government has stated that decreasing infection rates, deaths and hospitalisations being at their lowest level since July, and the vaccine rollout, mean that pupils will no longer be required to wear face coverings in the classroom or communal areas in schools and colleges.

The Government has stated that this decision has taken into consideration the latest scientific evidence, medical advice and stakeholder feedback on the impacts of wearing face coverings in schools and colleges.

ACCOUNT, Unmonitored, Department for Education

Dear Charles Gillow,

Thank you for your requests for information which were received on 4 May
2021.

I am responding to all eight of your emails of 4 May as provided for by
the Freedom of Information Act, as they are all requests relating to the
use of face coverings in classrooms.

You requested the following information:

FOI Request 1 2021-0025512 - Please provide any briefing documents
provided to, or communications with, ministers supporting the decision to
advise the use of face coverings in classrooms from 8 March 2021
FOI Request 2 2021-0025514 - Please provide the Department’s Risk
Assessment, or equivalent analysis, for the experiment/trial on the use of
face mask/coverings by children in classrooms.
FOI Request 3 2021-0025516 - Please provide the decision criteria against
which ministers assessed the Spring term trial of the use of face
coverings in classrooms by secondary age children.  
FOI Request 4 2021-0025517 - Please provide the evidence presented to
ministers to support the decision to extend the use of face coverings by
secondary age children in classrooms beyond Easter 2021
FOI Request 5 2021-0025513 - Please provide any briefing documents
provided to, or communications with, ministers supporting the decision to
advise the extension of the use of face coverings in classrooms to the
Summer term of 2021
FOI Request 6 2021-0025519 - Please provide copies of any inter-department
communications, at ministerial or director level, during March and April
2021, concerning the decision to extend the advice that children should
use face coverings in classrooms beyond Easter 2021.
FOI Request 7 2021-0025515 - Please provide the decision criteria to be
used for assessing the effectiveness of the use of face masks in
classrooms
FOI Request 8 2021-0025518 - Please provide copies of any inter-department
communications, at ministerial or director level, between 1 December 2020
and 10 January 2021, concerning the decision to provide advice that
children should use face coverings in classrooms with effect from 8 March
2021.

I have dealt with your requests under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
(“the Act”).

I confirm that the Department holds information within scope of the
requests. 

The Department estimates that the cost of complying with your combined
requests would exceed the cost threshold applicable to central Government.
This is £600 and represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3½
working days locating, retrieving and extracting the information. 

Regulation 5 provides that where two or more requests for information are
made to a public authority by one person, the estimated cost of complying
with any of the requests is to be taken to be the total costs of complying
with all of them where the two or more requests relate to any extent to
the same or similar information, and those requests are received within
any period of 60 consecutive working days.

As the eight requests were received on 4 May and that the appropriate
limit under section 12 of the Act would have been exceeded by complying
with that request, the Department is not therefore obliged to comply with
any of your requests and under section 12 will not be processing them
further.

Although I have not been able to provide the full information requested
due to the cost threshold I hope that it will be helpful to provide some
general information related to the review of face coverings in classrooms.

 1. 
 1. [1]PHE Systematic Review of Evidence
 2. [2]SAGE minutes
 3. [3]Attendance in education and early years settings during the
coronavirus outbreak

In addition, a summary of the evidence relating to children, young people
and education settings as of 22 February can be found here:
[4]Evidence summary: COVID-19 - children, young people and education
settings

If, however, you were to make a request for a narrower category of
information or limit the scope of your requests, the Department may be
able to comply with that request within the cost limit, though I cannot
guarantee that this will be the case.
 
In order to narrow your requests, you may wish to consider selecting from
your eight requests on this issue or perhaps limiting a narrowed request
to a particular timescale i.e. one or two specific weeks.  

I should point out that apart from narrowing your eight existing requests,
if the Department receives from you further requests which relate to any
extent to the same or similar information within 60 days of at least one
of those requests, your further requests will be aggregated with the
earlier requests for cost threshold purposes.

Regulation 5 also makes provision for the same aggregation arrangements to
apply in circumstances where different persons appear to the public
authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact the Department.
Please remember to quote the reference numbers above in any future
communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should
make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar
months of the date of this letter. 

Your complaint will be considered by an independent review panel, who were
not involved in the original consideration of your request. 
 
If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the
Department, you may then contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.
 

Yours sincerely,

Infection, Prevention and Control Team
Coronavirus Response Unit
Department for Education
 

References

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